6 Common Sense Time Management And Productivity Tips Anyone Can Use.
The demand on our time has grown incredibly over the last twenty years or so. This has largely been because of the digital revolution — where once if we were not in our home or place of work our friends and colleagues could not reach us, now no matter where we are in the world (or universe!) we can be reached with the simple press of a button.
With that 24/7 access to our time and all the wonderful things we can now do for entertainment and education, we find ourselves having difficulty finding time to do the most basic of things. Have breakfast and dinner with our family, spend an hour or so reading a book or go for a Sunday afternoon walk with our partner.
A lot of this is due to access. We are more accessible than we have ever been. For most people, leaving their mobile phone at home while they go out for a run or take a walk with their loved one would be uncomfortable, this is the way we lived just twenty to thirty years ago and we had no problems or issues because of it. Although I would not go as far as to say we were more relaxed back then, I would say we enjoyed more of the time we had we our loved ones because it was just them and us. There was no mobile phone or other electronic device beeping and buzzing for our attention acting like a gooseberry.
So, with that in mind here are six tips and tricks anyone can use that will help you to regain more of your time so you can spend it doing the things you want to with the people you want to be with.
Use your calendar
It surprises me how many people are not using their calendars to manage their time each day. Your calendar shows you how much time you have each day and you see where you have gaps to do the things you love doing. Exercise, spending time with the people you care about, reading a book or taking a walk in the park. All these things can be scheduled on your calendar so when you receive a demand for your time you can make a decision based on whether the new demand for your time will be more important or fulfilling than the original one.
Get better at saying no
This is hard. It’s the one that most people struggle with because we are wired to please people. Saying “no” to someone feels like we are letting them down and they will think badly of us. The truth is, if you say “yes” to a time demand and then you do not give your full commitment to it, you will let that person down a lot more than if you had said “no” in the first place.
You don’t have to be impolite when saying “no”, you can do it gently. Developing a few strategies though that make it easier for you to say no to demands will ease your time pressures and put you in more control of what you do each day.
Spend a few minutes at the end of the day planning the next day
This one is huge. All you need is ten minutes at the end of the day to write out a few things you want to get done the next day. It does not matter where you do this. You can have an elaborate to-do list manager, you could use your calendar or just a simple piece of paper. All that matters is you make a plan for the things you want to do tomorrow.
What this does is help you to stay focused on what is important to you. It also gives your mind a chance to prepare. When you begin the day with a purpose and a plan, you are more likely to get those things done than if you just turn up at work and allow your email to tell you what needs doing next.
A bonus tip: Before you start the day, take a look at the list you made the day before and review it. Visualise yourself completing the list. This helps you to stay focused on what you have decided is important for the day.
Stop overcommitting yourself
You do not have to do everything all at once. One of the reasons so many people feel stressed out and overwhelmed is because they are trying to complete all their projects in one go. Stop this.
Firstly, you are never going to be able to do everything all at once and secondly, when you take that kind of pressure off yourself you get a lot more work done because you can focus on a few key parts that will move your projects further faster.
Identify the things that will have the biggest impact on your work
Too often we spend our time doing trivial tasks that do not have a significant impact on our work. Checking email, for example, is incredibly inefficient. Doing email is more productive. What’s the difference? Checking email is going through your inbox looking for an important email and ignoring the less important email. Doing email is starting at the top of your inbox and dealing with each email as you go through it.
Checking email leaves you will email still in your inbox that you will have to look at again later. Doing email leaves you with an empty inbox and a list of emails that need action that you will do when you have time later.
With practice, you soon learn to distinguish what tasks have the biggest impact on moving projects forward. While planning is important, spending too much time planning and thinking does not move projects forward. Action does. Making the phone call you have been putting off, sitting down and writing the report or preparing the slides for the presentation you have to do next week. Those tasks get things done. Thinking about them does not.
Take a break!
We are not machines. We cannot work at a consistent level all day. We will go through peaks and troughs. For most people, they can stay focused and creative longer in the morning. After lunch, it becomes harder to focus and pushing yourself through to try and finish a report is wasting time.
Instead, learn when you are at your most focused — for most people that will be in the morning, for some, that could be in the evening — then use your calendar to schedule the work that requires the most focus and concentration at the times you are at your best.
Then, every ninety-minutes or so, take a ten-minute break. Get up, move around. Try to get some fresh air and a different view. Staring at a screen all day will sap your creative juices quicker than anything else. Taking a break and getting outside will rejuvenate you.
So there you go, six common-sense tips and tricks to help you become more productive with your time so you can spend more of your time doing the things you want to do and that have the biggest impact on your work and your wellbeing.